Establishing a computer lab with all the latest equipment in the desert hundreds of kilometres from anywhere is no easy task, as Australian Jesuit Chris Jenkins knows all too well, reports Province Express.
Fr Jenkins is overseeing a distance learning pilot program for refugees in Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya, where he has worked since May last year.
The initiative, entitled Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, is a partnership between Jesuit Refugee Service and Jesuit Commons, a network of Jesuit colleges in the US. It addresses a call for Jesuits to share the resource of education with some of the poorest people by offering tertiary or higher education to refugees through the internet and onsite with teachers, mentors and tutors.
"Experience in our first six months has shown that the flexibility that learning via internet offers is particularly useful when working with refugees," says Fr Jenkins.
"Needless to say, establishing a computer lab with all the latest equipment in the desert, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, has taken quite an effort on the part of many people. Buildings, power, internet connection, servers, routers, laptops etc, have all had to be brought in and secured in a very troubled and hostile environment.
"The dust, heat and study conditions will continue to make it hard for our students and our equipment, but like most refugees they are motivated when it comes to education; for them it is the key to a new future, a reason for hope."
Fr Jenkins says that students for the diploma have been chosen not only on the basis of their academic credentials, but in light of their ongoing involvement in the life of the camp.
"A guiding principle of Jesuit education generally is that those who receive the benefit of learning have an obligation to use it for the wider benefit of their communities. Some [students] are counsellors, some teachers, some health workers. Most work part-time in one or other of the NGOs operating in the camp."
FULL STORY Australian Jesuit oversees refugee diploma program (Province Express)